Pat Whitely, vice president for Student Affairs, has become the first University of Miami administrator to be elected chair of NASPA’s (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) board of directors. She assumed her new post March 18 and will serve a one-year term.
Founded in 1919, NASPA is an association dedicated to the advancement, health and sustainability of student affairs. It is comprised of 13,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries and eight United States territories.
The Miami Hurricane spoke with Whitely about her new position and what it could mean for UM and schools nationwide.
The Miami Hurricane: How do you think your position at UM can help with your new one with NASPA?
Pat Whitely: I’ve been working at UM for 18 years, and I’m one of the longest standing vice presidents as well. It’s a blessing to be given this position, and I hope to be a good and effective leader. My experience with [UM] President [Donna E.] Shalala and the student affairs program here is what I think can help me with the new position.
TMH: How do you think UM will benefit with you as the chair of NASPA?
PW: It gives the opportunity to have a national presence. NASPA is in charge of having a voice when public policy and federal laws are made concerning school. Too often, laws and policies have been formulated without our voice, yet our campuses view us as the experts. NASPA works mostly with the federal government so UM won’t be able to see a direct change in its student body.
TMH: What are problems in student affairs that you believe need to be given immediate attention?
PW: There isn’t one single problem that needs attention; it’s more of having a voice for many problems such as mental health, technology, online learning and graduation rates, to name a few. We want to make sure our outcomes are good ones and that students are graduating. NASPA is in charge of making sure we have our voice in the federal place so these problems are kept in mind.
TMH: You have spoken about how the support of community colleges can make significant contributions to higher education. How can the local colleges in the Miami area impact UM and NASPA?
PW: I think we should pay more attention to them. Many students at UM are transfers from community colleges for financial reasons. It’s important to foster this relationship because students are coming from these colleges, and we want to make sure they graduate with a good outcome. Community colleges in general have improved, and we can’t leave them out either when it comes to decision-making that will impact schools.